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The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today announced the 80 winners of the second annual Growth Accelerator Fund Competition. The SouthWorks MakerLab in Park Forest was among the grant recipients for the second year in a row. The recipients represent 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Accelerators serve entrepreneurs in a broad set of industries and sectors – from manufacturing and tech start-ups, to farming and biotech – with many focused on creating a diverse and inclusive small business community.
“SBA is continuing to make advances in supporting unique organizations that help the start-up community grow, become commercially viable, and have a real and sustained economic impact,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. “Through the wide-spread outreach of this competition, we are able to reach entrepreneurial ecosystems across the country. My commitment is to make our resources available to 21st century entrepreneurs where they are, and these accelerators, also known as incubators and innovation hubs, are the gathering place for today’s innovators and disruptors.”
Applications were judged by more than 40 experts with entrepreneurial, investment, startup, economic development, capital formation and academic backgrounds from both the public and private sector. The first panel of judges reviewed over 400 applications and presentations and established a pool of 180 highly qualified finalists.
The second panel evaluated the finalists’ presentations and pitch videos and selected the 80 winners. Each organization will receive a cash prize of $50,000 from the SBA. In accepting these funds, the accelerators will also be committing to quarterly reporting for one year. They will be required to report metrics such as jobs created, funds raised, startups launched and corporate sponsors obtained. This will allow the SBA to continue building upon its database of accelerators and their impact, and to develop long-term relationships with the startups and constituents in these innovative and entrepreneurial communities.
The purpose of the competition was to draw attention and funding to parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. While there are entrepreneurial activities occurring nationwide, some are better supported by private sector ecosystems than others. SBA has created connective tissue amongst the nearly 130 winning entrepreneurial ecosystems now part of the Growth Accelerator Fund.
Watch the SouthWorks MarkerLab Network in Park Forest's pitch video that helped secure the award:
Growth Accelerator Application 2015 - SouthWorks MakerLab Network from ParkForestIL on Vimeo.